Arizona

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Arizona

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Jan 11, 2008 2:39 pm

The East Valley Tribune wrote:January 10, 2008 - 6:55PM

Initiative would make marijuana legal for ill

Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services


Arizona voters may get a chance this year to do what they thought they were doing in 1996: allow people who are ill to possess and use marijuana legally.

An initiative being crafted would spell out that individuals who are certified by their doctors as needing the drug would be able to possess small amounts — the details are still being worked out — without running afoul of state law. They also would be able to grow their own drugs.

Backers, organized as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, have until July 3 to get the 153,365 signatures necessary to put the measure on the November ballot.

Financing for the initiative is coming from the national Marijuana Policy Project which bills itself as the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the country. It already has kicked in $10,000.

That organization is no stranger to state initiatives: It also was behind a 2006 Nevada ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana and instead regulate and tax it. But that initiative picked up just 44 percent of the vote.

Two years earlier, though, it financed a successful medical initiative in Montana.

Dan Bernath, a spokesman for the national group, said it appears voters are more willing to allow people who are ill to use marijuana than to make its possession legal for everyone.
That has proven to be the case in Arizona, where by a 2-1 margin voters in 1996 approved a law allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana — and various other illegal drugs — to patients who are seriously or terminally ill.

That law was ratified again two years later by voters after state legislators attempted to partially repeal it.

But a 2002 initiative, which included a provision to reduce the penalty for possession of up to 2 ounces to a fine, picked up just 43 percent of the vote.

The new initiative comes because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency effectively quashed the 1996 law by threatening to revoke all prescription-writing privileges of any physician who prescribed otherwise illegal drugs to their Arizona patients. The result is no Arizona doctor has written such a prescription.

Alternate language for this measure, still being worked out, would allow doctors to “recommend” marijuana.

That distinction is crucial: The U.S. Supreme Court, in a historic 2003 ruling, blocked the DEA from going after California doctors who, using that state’s law, recommend a patient use marijuana.

That still leaves the question of how patients are supposed to get the drugs in the first place.
Courts have allowed agents to pursue suppliers. And some of the “dispensaries” in California have been raided.

Bernath said that is why states which have adopted medical marijuana laws since California allow patients or a “designated caregiver” to grow a set amount of the drug.

“This keeps it small enough that the federal government doesn’t turn its attention to those kind of things,” he said.

That defeated 2002 initiative attempted to deal with the supply problem by allowing anyone with a doctor’s recommendation to get up to 2 ounces of marijuana, free, each month from the state Department of Public Safety, which presumably would have obtained its supply from drugs seized from those who lack the necessary state permission.

That initiative was opposed by Janet Napolitano, then the state attorney general and, at the time, a candidate for governor, despite her admission of having indulged.

“I experimented in college a little bit and regret doing it,” she said at the time. “When you’re in college you do a lot of dumb stuff.”
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Medical marijuana group declines to fund initiative

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:50 pm

The Arizona Daily Star wrote:Medical marijuana group declines to fund initiative

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.12.2008


PHOENIX — Choosing to concentrate its efforts elsewhere, a national group has decided not to finance an initiative in Arizona to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes this year.

Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the national Marijuana Policy Project, confirmed Monday that the group, which was going to bankroll the initiative here, has decided to focus its energies, and its funds, on two other states where similar measures already are virtually assured of qualifying for the ballot.

In Michigan, backers have already submitted petitions with an estimated 496,000 signatures to allow patients who have a recommendation from their doctor to use marijuana.

In Massachusetts a group has already gathered enough signatures to require state lawmakers to consider the measure. If the Legislature does not act, then some additional signatures will qualify the measure for the November ballot.

Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project said it simply comes down to money.

"It was just really a strategic decision. Where can we take limited resources and best apply them?" Yuhas said.

But both Mirken and Yuhas said their plan is to pursue the initiative in Arizona in 2010. And both said Arizona will be a battleground on the issue, regardless of what voters decide this fall in Michigan and Massachusetts.

Yuhas said the Arizona group will keep the $10,000 it already received from the national group, putting it toward a 2010 race.

Until then, Yuhas said the local group will not be taking positions on local races, backing or opposing individual candidates based on their views on the medical use of marijuana. He said initiative backers believe only a direct vote of the people actually will change the law.

Yuhas did say the outcome of the presidential race could also affect exactly how an Arizona initiative is crafted.

He noted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, unable to undermine California's medical marijuana laws, has instead raided some of the California "dispensaries" set up under that state's statutes. Yuhas said whoever takes over the White House may direct the DEA to take a less hostile approach to allowing states to pursue their own policies on the use of marijuana.

Arizona actually already has a law on the books allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana and other otherwise-illegal drugs to serious and terminally ill patients.

But that measure, approved by voters in 1996, never took effect. That's because the DEA threatened to revoke all prescription-writing privileges of any physician who actually wrote out a prescription for marijuana.

Subsequent initiatives have instead said doctors could "recommend" marijuana.

That distinction is critical. In a historic 2003 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the DEA from penalizing California doctors who recommend marijuana to patients. The justices, without comment, accepted arguments doctors have a First Amendment right to discuss all options with their patients.
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Arizona Medical Pot Offices Stand Empty

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:44 pm

Without dispensaries, patients and designated caregivers can grow their own pot without being subject to the same regulations.


Arizona Medical Pot Offices Stand Empty After Brewer Sues Feds

Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-0 ... -feds.html
By Amanda J. Crawford - Jul 8, 2011


When self-described serial entrepreneur Ian Christensen looks around the white-walled medical office he plans to lease in Paradise Valley, Arizona, he sees opportunity. Now all he needs is some pot.

Like hundreds of other would-be marijuana moguls, Christensen courted investors, hired attorneys, negotiated leases, cleared zoning hurdles, purchased equipment and sank tens of thousands of dollars into plans to pioneer an industry Arizona voters created by referendum in November.

Then Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican who opposed the initiative, sued the federal government and would-be dispensary operators in a case that may have implications in California and the 14 other U.S. states that have authorized medical pot. She wants a federal judge in Phoenix to decide whether the state can implement the law without its workers facing federal charges or whether U.S. law trumps the statute entirely.

“They put the dispensaries out of business before we ever started,” Christensen said last week as he toured the office.

Like other supporters, he cited the monetary boost and jobs a new industry could bring to the state, whose unemployment rate has been above 9 percent for more than two years. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, a defendant in Brewer’s lawsuit, estimates a medical-pot industry would generate as much as $700 million annually, according to Joe Yuhas, a spokesman.

“We want to stimulate the local economy,” said Christensen, a 34-year-old Scottsdale resident.

Gregoire, Christie

Brewer filed suit May 27 because she shares the concerns of other governors, including New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Washington’s Christine Gregoire, that government employees might face federal prosecution for carrying out state law, said her spokesman, Matthew Benson.

Christie, a Republican, said last month he would delay New Jersey’s medical-marijuana law until getting clarification from U.S. authorities. The sale and possession of pot is illegal under federal law, even for medical use.

Medical marijuana has existed in a legal gray area since California became the first state to authorize it 15 years ago, its precarious nature punctuated by occasional federal raids and prosecutions. In 2009, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department outlined its position in a memo to U.S. attorneys that said federal resources shouldn’t be spent prosecuting people complying with state medical-marijuana laws.

Risk of Prosecution

Since then, more states and localities have moved to regulate the medical-marijuana industry and license those who cultivate or sell it, raising questions about how the federal government would treat commercial enterprises legal under state law.

In April, Gregoire, a Democrat, sought federal guidance when trying to decide whether to sign a bill to create a licensing system in Washington, which legalized medical marijuana in 1998. Washington’s U.S. attorneys responded that anyone who ran or facilitated marijuana dispensaries or cultivation sites risked prosecution -- including state employees. Gregoire vetoed the measure.

Similar letters from U.S. attorneys to officials in other states followed, including from Arizona’s U.S. attorney, Dennis K. Burke. His May 2 letter to health officials didn’t mention government employees. Burke has “no intention to investigate, target or prosecute state employees,” he said in an interview last week.

Brewer and state Attorney General Tom Horne filed their lawsuit five days before licensing of dispensaries was set to start. Arizonans approved the pot referendum by 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent, a margin of fewer than 5,000 votes.

Federal ‘Doublespeak’

Two weeks after Brewer filed her suit, Christie, who had requested guidance from the federal government in April, cited the same reason when he announced he would continue to delay implementation of New Jersey’s medical-marijuana law that was to start this month.

A Justice Department memo sent June 29 to federal prosecutors was aimed at clarifying the situation. Those who grow, sell or distribute marijuana or “facilitate” those activities -- even if they are legal under state law -- risk prosecution, wrote Deputy U.S. Attorney General James M. Cole.

Brewer, 66, criticized the memo in a statement for offering only “continued confusion and doublespeak.” She and Horne said it makes Arizona’s case even more important.

“They knew we were concerned about government employees, and they chose not to give us reassurance,” Horne said in a telephone interview July 1.

New Jersey officials are reviewing the Justice Department memo and haven’t decided how to proceed, said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for Attorney General Paula Dow.

‘Significant Ruling’

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is defending the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association in the case, asked the court yesterday to dismiss Brewer’s lawsuit. Among other arguments, the ACLU said states shouldn’t be able to challenge the legality of their own laws in federal court.

“It will be a significant ruling that will affect how medical-marijuana laws are implemented and how they may or may not be challenged in the future,” said Scott Michelman, an ACLU staff attorney.

Brewer’s suit left the state that was about to have one of the most tightly regulated medical-marijuana systems in the country facing a patchwork future of home-growing, caregivers and “clubs” instead. Would-be dispensary owners have sued in state court to force her to move forward with licensing. In the meantime, they wait, give up or adapt.

Grow Your Own

Marla Richards, publisher of a marijuana trade magazine called “Clinical Cannabis Today,” said she thought a plan to open at least five dispensaries was a safe retirement investment. Now Richards, 46, of Scottsdale, Arizona, said she worries about wasting the $85,000 in savings she’s spent and losing real-estate agreements she’s secured.

Tripp Keber, 43, of Colorado-based Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, has scrapped plans to open a marijuana food factory in Phoenix that would have had more than a dozen full-time employees to start. He said he put many hours and tens of thousands of dollars into researching the Arizona market.

Ingrid Joiya, 55, whose company invested more than a quarter-million dollars to develop vending-machine technology for a chain of cashless dispensaries, is looking for a loophole.

The North Phoenix resident said she decided to invest in Arizona’s dispensary system because the state did it right: Dispensaries were to be regulated, capped at 125 and subject to strict local zoning rules. Residents couldn’t grow their own pot if they lived within 25 miles of a dispensary.

Pot Clubs

Without dispensaries, patients and designated caregivers can grow their own pot without being subject to the same regulations. More than 6,500 patients have received medical- marijuana cards since the program started in April, according to Health Department statistics, with 75 percent indicating they planned to grow their own.

Unregulated caregiver clubs are opening to fill the void created by the Brewer suit. Caregivers, who are designated by patients to grow pot for them, are allowed to cultivate as many as 12 plants per patient, with a limit of five patients.

Joiya is working on a new plan to open her pot shops with marijuana from caregivers.

“We financially committed to these things, to put money in an economy in a state that desperately needs it,” she said. “I think it is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare and a travesty. Voters voted on this, and the governor is trying to stop it under a ruse.”

The case is Arizona v. United States of America, 11-01072, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda J. Crawford in Phoenix at acrawford24@bloomberg.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.
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